River Cottage

Polenta with tomato sauce recipe

River Cottage: Polenta
This dish from Hugh is well seasoned and packed with flavour. The sauce is simple and can be used in many different ways too

Serves 4


  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped, OR a good pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 150g quick-cook polenta
  • 100g strong Cheddar or well-flavoured, hard goat’s cheese, grated
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the tomato sauce

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely slivered
  • 2 x 400g tins plum tomatoes, any stalky ends and skin removed
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • A pinch of sugar


  1. To make the polenta, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium-low heat. Add the garlic and chilli and sweat gently for a couple of minutes – don’t let the garlic colour. Add the rosemary and remove from the heat.

  2. Pour 800ml water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Now pour in the polenta in a thin stream, stirring all the time. When smooth, allow it to return to a simmer. Cook for 4–5 minutes, stirring often, then remove from the heat. Stir in the garlic, chilli and rosemary mixture, then add the grated cheese and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Mix well.

  3. Tip the polenta on to a cold surface, such as a plate or a marble slab, and spread it smoothly into an even disc, about 2cm thick. Leave to cool completely.

  4. To make the tomato sauce, heat the olive oil in a wide frying pan over a medium-low heat. Add the garlic and sweat gently for a couple of minutes; don’t let it colour. Put the tomatoes into a large bowl with their juice and crush them with your hands. Tip the lot into the frying pan, adding a bay leaf if you have one handy. Bring to a simmer then cook for 20–30 minutes, stirring often and crushing the tomatoes with a fork until you have a thick, pulpy sauce. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar.

  5. When the polenta is cool and firm, cut into slices or wedges. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a non-stick pan over a medium-high heat and fry the polenta pieces for 2–3 minutes each side, until they have a light, golden brown crust. Serve topped with the hot tomato sauce.

River Cottage Veg book

Recipe from River Cottage Veg Every Day

Images © Simon Wheeler

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River Cottage

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